Challenor’s amazing marathon debut

2014-10-04 00:00

MOST runners dread the thought of their first marathon but Durban’s Jenna Challenor ran her first in style by finishing in a world championship qualifying time last weekend.

She took on some top athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia at the PetroSA Marathon in Mossel Bay and came out tops in 2:41,18, to qualify for selection in the national team ahead of the World Marathon Championships next year.

The Boxer runner, who is also sponsored by Adidas South Africa, specialises in half marathons but believed she would be better suited to marathons and trained for 17 weeks before taking on her maiden 42-kilometre race.

“I originally wanted to run the Cape Town Marathon but I had an opportunity in Mossel Bay and decided to take it. There was some big hype in Cape Town and I just wanted to run my first race at a controlled pace to experience what its like,” Challenor told Weekend Witness.

The decision proved fruitful as she finished well ahead of the next best runner and was beaming with confidence a week after the race.

“I was aiming for three things in my first marathon. To enjoy the distance, and I really loved it; to finish strong, and I crossed the finish line not wanting to throw up or feeling sick, and lastly to finish in the top three, which I managed to do,” she said.

Despite reaching these goals, Challenor admits the race was challenging. Being shown an original course map, she was surprised by how hilly the route was when she drove it the day before the race.

“I love hills but running my first marathon it was intimidating to see how long and steep some of the sections were,” she said.

Adding to those nerves was a small niggle she picked up a week before the race, which led her to rest leading up to the marathon. In hindsight, the injury changed her attitude towards her final week of preparation.

“I actually felt refreshed and my body was raring to go on race day. I think I will do that again in the future.”

The race had a challenging start, with the 10 km, 21 km and marathon races all starting together

Despite a big pack, she broke away early and eventually ran clear towards the end of the race.

“A marathon really starts at around 36 km. Those last eight kilometres are crucial, and with 800 metres left, my coach stopped next to me and said ‘you better hurry she is going to catch you’.”

When Challenor reached the finish line she found no one on her heels but the added impetus helped her record an amazing time.

Challenor is now taking a break from running, as is customary after a marathon. She is looking forward to next year and her next marathon.

“I haven’t planned my next race but I definitely want to run a faster, flatter course. Even an overseas marathon would be great,” she said.

If she can run a marathon faster than two hours and 36 minutes, Challenor could qualify for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 if she is selected to represent South Africa.

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